Here's an unusual phenomenon, at least in conference play: after playing arguably the best team in the country on Sunday, Maryland will turn around and play arguably the worst high-major team in the country. Ah, the joys of Wake Forest.
You may remember Wake Forest as the team that fired Dino Gaudio, a solid recruiter and mediocre bench coach, and replaced him with...Jeff Bzdelik, by all accounts a mediocre recruiter and a mediocre bench coach. The results haven't been pretty: Wake is 7-9 this year, with losses to Stetson, VCU, Winthrop, UNC-Wilmington, and Presbyterian, among others. The solid bright spot on the schedule? A one-point, buzzer-beating win at home against Iowa, a team that lost to South Dakota State and Long Beach State earlier in the season.
This game is about as close to a gimmee as you'll get in ACC play; the only thing easier will be when the Demon Deacons have to visit Maryland. Of course, no game in ACC play is a gimmee, strictly speaking; one of the great things about the conference is the passion and parity, and upsets can strike at any moment. Maryland has to take this game, like every other one in ACC play, seriously. Still, as long as they do that, it should be an easy victory.
Wake Forest is clearly a team in building. The starting lineup consists of two freshmen, two sophomores, and a lone senior who, before this season, had never averaged 10 minutes a game.
The most dynamic player, and the one you should be most afraid of, is JT Terrell, a freshman shooting guard with immeasurable offensive skill. He doesn't start and sometimes doesn't even get major minutes, but when he does, he'll rack up points in bunches. Unfortunately, for Bzdelik, he's also never met a shot he didn't like; he'll take a lot of shots and score a lot of points, but until he gets his offensive game under control, he'd be more of a liability than a strength for a lot of teams. (Wake Forest, with a lack of offensive firepower, isn't one of those teams).
The rest of the backcourt is made up of a lot of inexperience, very little depth, and nothing in the way of true point guards. Tony Chennault, the only true point on the roster, broke his leg and is out for 8-to-10 months. In his place, Wake has been forced to play a variety of inexperienced poor fits at the 1. His absence also means that Wake basically has only three guards on the roster; the lack of depth here is noticeable.
C.J. Harris is the most important backcourt player. A sophomore who started last year, he's been picking up a lot of the point guard slack and leads Wake Forest in assists. He's turnover-prone and more of a natural SG, so there's been some struggles, but all things considered he's fared pretty well. He'll be a nice matchup for Terrell Stoglin or Pe'Shon Howard on both ends of the court.
Gary Clark is the aforementioned senior, who's kind of playing a "Dave Neal in the backcourt" role this season. He's a good shooter from three (64% on 44 attempts) and is averaging nearly 12 points per game after putting up just 3.2 a game last year. Clark and Terrell are both sharp-shooters from deep; as a team, Wake is nearly as good as Duke is from outside. The three-pointer is the great equalizer, so if they get hot they'll stick around.
On the other side of that, though, the lack of a point guard means more turnovers and fewer shots. They're second-to-last in TO%, and Maryland's defense, if it's as strong as it was against Duke, shouldn't have any problem disrupting Wake's young team.
Post play is little better. Tony Woods and Chas MacFarland are finally gone, thank God, and in their place is - guess what - inexperienced talent. Carson Desrosiers is a lanky 7-foot freshman; he has a high ceiling, but shouldn't provide much of a fight against a much stronger and more experienced Jordan Williams down low. Despite starting, he's not getting a lot in the way of playing time: only 17 minutes a game, in which he's putting up just 4 and 3. For the record, he's been getting more run (and performing a little better) as the season's worn on. Next to him is Ty Walker, who is as enigmatic as ever: he's 7-0 and clearly talented, but has never come close to putting it together. In the Deacons' blowout loss to N.C. State he only played four minutes, despite getting abused in the paint.
Like many games this season, Maryland and Jordan Williams should have a marked advantage in the post. N.C. State absolutely abused WF down low: they out-rebounded them 47-22 and the starters at the four and five spots (Tracy Smith and C.J. Leslie) combined for 42 points. Wake is pretty much the worst rebounding team in the ACC; they've been consistently dominated on the boards in their losses, including even Winthrop and Stetson. Yes, you heard right: Stetson, a college named after a hat, outrebounded Wake by double-digits.
Jordan Williams, prepare to feast.
If there's a strength of this team, it comes on the wings. Ari Stewart, a 6-7 sophomore, and Travis McKie, a 6-7 freshman, are strongly built wings, kind of in the vein of Sean Mosley but with better scoring ability and a few extra inches of height. McKie especially may prove problematic; despite his relatively small stature, he's the team's leading rebounder, second-leading scorer, and second-leading minute-getter (N.B.: we need to come up with a better name for that). He and Stewart are both extremely versatile and may prove matchup problems for Maryland.
The only problem for Wake Forest with Stewart and McKie: both are more steady than anything else. Normally, that's good, but to pull off upsets, they'll need a spectacular performance. Remember, these guys have consistently lost to low-major teams, often embarrassingly. To overcome the lack of rebounding, post toughness, and point guard play (among other things, including a terrible defense), Wake needs spectacular. The only player with that makeup appears to be Terrell, and quite frankly he seems just as likely to take two dozen bad shots and turn the ball over seven times.
Don't sell Wake entirely short. They stuck with Gonzaga and were leading at Richmond for a short period. Joel Coliseum is usually a tough place to play, too. But short of an implosion from Maryland and a surprisingly good performance from Wake, Maryland should come out with a win. Get in, get out, and move on to Nova.